I only ask this question because I was coaching someone the other day, when it became apparent that that was indeed the case. They are an excellent planner/project manager and can be relied upon to get the job done; they never miss a deadline and always deliver.
Recently though, they had taken on more and more, to the point that they were probably attempting to do two jobs. This is a perfect example of how your strengths can hold you back. Very often people will give more work to the people they trust to deliver, and if you aren’t skilled in managing your boundaries it is all too easy to get overloaded.
But this wasn’t what really caught my attention. What had happened was that, in their quest to plan, to chase for deliverables, to check and double check that the teams were on track, they had started to alienate the people who actually did the work. In addition, they started wasting the little time they had with pointless and endless chasing.
Quite often you will find that any strength put under pressure will have a dark side, one which does not serve you well. What’s important is to know when you are about to step over to the dark side and how can you save yourself!! Here are some ideas:
- Know your strengths
This might seem like an obvious one, but quite often people don’t know what they are good at. They don’t realise what it is they are doing that is serving them well. If you don’t know that then you won’t know when you are starting to deviate from those skills or when you are starting to over employ them.
- Say No
Having boundaries, knowing what they are and protecting them is what I would call a “business basic”. It is a fundamental life and business skill that everyone needs. Given that most of us only go over to ‘The dark side’ when we are under pressure, it makes sense to not get into that situation in the first place.
- Know your triggers
Having a challenging workload can be exhilarating, it can put us in the zone and really enhance our performance. However, knowing what your personal stress triggers are – the ones that push you out of high performance and into stress - is vitally important. When you know them, just being able to identify that they are appearing can calm you down and make you take a moment. This is often all you need to get back on track.
- Understand your dark side
Make friends with yourself. What do you do when you’re stressed (apart from eat more chocolate!)? If you know that you start interrogating people when normally you would be consultative, then you can start to identify a strategy to address that. What does your particular strength look like when it moves to the dark side?
- Be honest and tell people
There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling people why you are behaving like you are, as long as you are really trying hard not to exhibit that behaviour. For example you might say “I know I only chased you on this yesterday but I am under pressure myself and it would really help me to have another update, even though it is quite likely nothing has changed”.
Where necessary have the good grace to say you are sorry. People understand and forgive easily if they honestly believe you didn’t mean to offend or push them. You might do that in the moment, for example you may haveasked a question and heard that your tone of voice was inappropriate, so apologise straight away i.e. “oh my goodness I am so sorry, I didn’t mean for that to sound so rude, that is not how I meant it to come out”, or, if it takes you a little while longer to realise what has been happening then say it when you do realise i.e. “thank you for all of your support over the last few weeks, I think I have been really demanding, and I am really sorry if I have gone over the top at all”.
Taking an active part in your personal development is key for anyone who wants to progress their career. If you want to think about how you could develop yourself you might find out personal development plan useful.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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